His father was shot and killed. Now he’s working to expand early release in Mississippi prisons. | #College. | #Students

Don’t call state Sen. Juan Barnett “a bleeding heart liberal” just because he believes state laws should be changed to expand the opportunity for earlier release for many in Mississippi prisons.

Barnett, a 51-year-old Democrat from Heidelberg and chair of the Senate Corrections Committee, knows the despair that can be experienced by victims of crime. After all, Barnett and his family in Jasper County are crime victims — victims of violent crime.

But now Barnett is working in the Mississippi Senate to shorten the sentences for many state inmates.

This could be considered an unusual priority for a legislator who, as a 20-year-old Army soldier deployed to Iraq in the early 1990s in the first Gulf War, received word his father had been shot to death in his hometown of Heidelberg. The death occurred during a confrontation where to this day Barnett said the exact details of what occurred are not known.

What Barnett does know is that the incident, after which a person was sent away to prison for a short period of time, left Barnett feeling both heartbroken and vengeful. Those feelings, he said, lingered for years while he went away to college at Livingston University in Alabama.

He later worked in Indonesia for a period in the telecommunications industry before returning to his hometown and to his mother’s house without much direction on what the next phase of his life would entail.

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